IX. Our future

Submitted by Juan Conatz on January 2, 2012

All organizers of Occupy Oakland should be proud of our dynamic actions on November 2nd, November 19th, and December 12th. For the time being, we must shift our political time clock, stop rushing from action to action in emergency mode and build a long-term movement. A long-term movement includes digging deeper and deeper roots within the Black and Brown communities, structurally important workplaces, while also maintaining the radical imagination and democratic spirit of the movement. In short, there needs to be a shift from mass mobilizations to consistent and long-term organizing.

This movement has demonstrated itself to be stronger than any one left organization or union. Learning how to work with people from all different political backgrounds is key, in order that the tentacles of the movement can reach farther than any singular force. But we mustn’t spread our tentacles too thin; mobilizing hundreds and thousands of people can reach its limits. Only when we mobilize and organize in working class communities and workplaces can we begin to challenge the contradictions facing Occupy Oakland. This mobilization takes the form of coordinated short-term tactical actions along with long-term class struggle which can begin to brake-down the division between port workers and our social movement.

Attempting to coordinate short-term protests and long-term class struggle through coalitions often lead to an array of problems that lacks a unified political strategy for such a project. Social movements without a revolutionary perspective often fragment into informal gossip ridden circles that don’t see the importance of pushing for the working class to become a class-for-itself, creating a class-wide offensive against capitalism.

Creating long-term class struggle with short-term tactical operations is not easy. There are many challenges: the surplus population section of the proletariat engages in destructive activity; the unemployed need new forms of organization; non-union workers need alternative forms of struggle against workplace austerity and discipline, which a front of the IWW has been doing impressive work on; unionized rank-file members need to challenge the bureaucracy of unions that we saw heavily lash out against December 12th… and the list continues.

So the question now is, what is on the horizon for the Occupy movement for the next 6 months? Can organizers of all walks of political life unite on a common perspective of organizing for a class-wide offensive? All types of people are engaged-in this movement, and are attempting to understand the power of this movement to move forward in its radical potential. On the one hand, the plurality of the movement gives it diversity and creativity. On the other, without a clear revolutionary strategy of how to successfully fight the one percent makes our movement lack a direction. We don’t want to eliminate any creative diversity of the movement, nor have the movement run into destructive walls. Such a balancing act requires both a patience and foresight: to listen and learn, agitate and propose solutions. The possibility for change and momentum has brought so many people together, bringing out a potential force to organize for revolutionary ends. This can happen if enough organizers within the movement can agree for which such a revolutionary framework is worth fighting.

The Occupy movement has become one of the greatest learning lessons for a new young radical generation and has produced and brought to life hundreds of radical fighters who organize non-stop- often selflessly- often operating off vices and meager sustenance, as well as the flavor of revolutionary potential. Such people are the human material for a new revolutionary movement to build a new society based on use, not profitable exchange.



12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by IDP on January 7, 2012

The following review of Advance the Struggle's account of Occupy Oakland was a collective effort and is being made as a comradely critique with the intent of encouraging them to revise it to correct its many errors. Otherwise, it does a disservice to the historical record by leaving an inaccurate and sloppily written account as well as a poorly reasoned analysis.

We also disagree with much of its content, especially when it ventures to offer solutions. It instructs the workers "to build organizational vehicles," positing that organizational forms are the prerequisite to struggle. We additionally disagree with its emphasis on the ballot box, when it says "we think that a recall campaign is a good strategy"; this is the same reformist strategy that foreclosed on a potential class struggle response in Wisconsin last winter.

This review will contain bibliographical references and internet links, because we think there are so many factual errors that the piece should be pulled down and rewritten. The writers need to review the suggested references and incorporate them into a new draft.

Here are the most egregious errors:

In Section II. it makes reference to Proposition 13, the tax reform initiative in California in 1978. The text reads "White proletarians moved out decades ago, to new suburbs that offered capital low to zero property taxes, incentivizing 'white flight.'" This misses the point, because whites didn't move to the suburbs for the tax rates, but because they could get preferable loans (VA loans with no down payments, FHA loans with 10% down, etc.) and yes, it was racialized because developers created de facto segregation with racist covenants in the mortgages. The intent was to prop up property values through racial exclusion. The tax revolt came later, right at the beginning of neo-liberal austerity, especially in the urban core of the U.S. (Ford's "Drop Dead" to New York City in 1975).

Suggested readings:

Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States by Kenneth T. Jackson (1985)

Paradise Lost: California's Experience, America's Future by Peter Shrag (2004)

American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland by Robert O. Self (2003)

Another paragraphs says:


The Bay Area’s main sectors of economic growth have been in high tech industries like Pixar in Emeryville, tourism like Jack London Square, eco-businesses like solar panels, and non-profits that sell labor-power maintenance services to the state and private capitalist foundations.

While there had been a great deal of growth in high-tech industry in the East Bay, especially research, development, and engineering for medical and genetic technology, along with new green energy companies, they aren't faring too well. Just check any local news source for the Solyndra bankruptcy. Pixar is just a Northern California extension of Hollywood, being the animation studio for Disney. And yes, one of San Francisco's main industries is tourism. This isn't true in Oakland; Jack London Square is a ghost town, more so since the anchor business, Barnes & Noble, closed in January 2010.

Suggested Reading:

• Peruse the San Francisco Business Times in order to more accurately analyze the economic status of the region.

Further down, it mentions "planet of slums," but this is a misreading of Mike Davis' book of the same name. That book is a chronicle of the process whereby the earth's population has gone from majority rural to around 51% urban, which is still increasing. In the U.S., this happened long ago. A better exposé of surplus populations and racist dispossession would be:

Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, and Opposition in Globalizing California by Ruth Wilson Gilmore (2007)

Then the text says:


On top of these developments, Oakland has suffered from a permanent state of police violence, when in the 1950s, racist Southern military personal were intentionally recruited by Oakland and Los Angeles Police Departments, a big factor giving rise to the Black Panthers in 1966.

Again, this is historically inaccurate. Starting with the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, but accelerating with World War II, a mass migration to California originated mostly in 4 states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas (29% of all urban migrants in 1944 alone). Most of these white former sharecroppers and tenant farmers, the "Okies" and" Arkies," were joined by their former black neighbors who were recruited to work side-by-side with them in the shipyards and defense plants. By the end of the war in 1945, most of these people were thrown out of work. But whites often could become police officers and since they were often from rural southern states, they brought their homegrown Jim Crow attitudes with them. Violence is simply one of the job duties of the police, but in Oakland it increased in intensity as the city was overcrowded with laid off defense industry workers and returning military service people in the 1940s.

So when the Black Panther Party was formed in 1966, there were only 16 black cops and 4 Mexican Americans out of 617 in the Oakland police force (from Oakland's Not for Burning by Amory Bradford [1968])

Also see:

The Second Gold Rush: Oakland and the East Bay in World War II by Marilynn S. Johnson (1993)

No There There: Race, Class, and Political Community in Oakland by Chris Rhomberg (2004)

The text then mentions the Republic Windows and Doors factory occupation in 2008. But it mistakes the union name, calling it the "EU (Electricians Union)" rather the actual name: "United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America." Then the piece states:


Workers in Chicago inspired from the South American factory occupations heavily present in Argentina

This is mere speculation and isn't substantiated anywhere. In April 2009 UE Local 1100 president Armando Robles, vice president Melvin Maclin, and international rep Mark Meinster visited the Bay Area. Some of us attended the presentation at the ILWU local 34 hall. We learned about their trips to the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre where they met with Latin American syndicalists and how they had communications and tactical consultations with Mexican and Canadian trade unionists with experience with plant occupations. UE sent Armando to meet with workers in Caracas, Venezuela to talk about strategies for fighting plant closures.UE organizes an ongoing international rank-and-file exchange program with Mexican unions, that brings Mexican workers to the States to meet with UE members and vice-versa. UE international staffers communicated with the current and former representatives of Canadian Auto Workers union about how to plan and carry out factory occupations. Armando talked about his familiarity with militant class struggle in his native Mexico. The book Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover, and What It Says About the Economic Crisis (by Kari Lydersen [2009]) emphasizes immigrant Spanish-speaking workers, especially those from Mexico and Central America, and their experiences of class struggle in Chicago over the last few decades.

Then the text says:


The California student movement, organizing an array of marches, occupations and strikes, began a movement against austerity climaxing on March 4th 2010, inspiring the Puerto Rican general strike shortly after.

This is reversing the order of history. The FMPR (La Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico) teachers union of Puerto Rico had been engaged in many militant struggles over the last decade, including staving of a government sanctioned raid by the SEIU. They had their major strike in February 2008, followed by school occupations, student walkouts and subsequent strikes. So the influence was from Puerto Rico to Oakland, not the other way around.


• http://www.fmprlucha.org/

Concerning troqueros, the short-haul truckers at West Coast ports, an erroneous fact is used twice: "The Long Beach truckers militantly struck in 2005 against high gas prices." This actually happened at the Port of Oakland and on the Harbor and Santa Ana Freeways leading to the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex on the morning of April 30, 2004. Similar actions by port truckers had also happened earlier that week in Stockton.

See these articles on the troqueros' actions:

Los Angleles Times

San Francisco Chronicle

The incorrect year is repeated again: "When fuel prices skyrocketed in 2005, there was a wildcat strike of mainly immigrant truckers at the port of Oakland." It was actually an 8-day wildcat strike and blockade at the APL gate at the Port of Oakland in May 2004. And all these events were precursors for May Day strike in 2006 where 95% of the 16,500 troqueros shut down the L.A./Long Beach ports. The May Day action was a nationwide general strike of millions of Latina/os against the racist anti-immigrant Sensenbrenner Act (H.R. 4437) that successfully forced congress to back down on the bill.

See Daniel Borgstrom's account on his blog:

"8 Days in May"

We could go on and on and rewrite this piece completely, but we'll finish with this series of gems:


A large group of Occupy Oakland organizers, including us [Advance the Struggle], didn't abstain from working with union bureaucrats, but instead worked to prevent union leaderships from bringing their Democratic allies with them.

It's impossible to tell if this is simply youthful naivety or naked opportunism since union bureaucrats in their social role are operatives of the electoral apparatus of the Democratic Party, especially in Oakland. Mayor Jean Quan spent almost her entire working life as a union bureaucrat, hence the segue to being a elected political official was so seamless. This quote sums up the weakness of the entire AtS piece:


But in our opinion union affiliation provided some needed working-class cred at a time when Occupy Oakland was beginning to get isolated by bourgeois media attacks and support among Oakland residents was dropping quickly.

So a purportedly class-based movement needs "cred" to stave off isolation created by the spectacle of the bourgeois media. And those same class enemies in the media had AtS convinced that the support by Oakland residents was "dropping." How did they find this out, by reading an opinion poll in the Oakland Tribune?

Advance the Struggle's class collaboration is inexcusable!


Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord (1967; translated by Ken Knabb)